books are not based on real people. Tori, Roni, Cody, Erin and Casey, and Valentina and the other Russian kids are straight out of my head. Some of the secondary characters -- for example, Mary, the shelter director -- are based somewhat on people I know. Sometimes an experience a character has, such as Granny's time in Siberia, is based on someone's real experience, even though the character is made up.
Q. How do you choose character names? -- Carmen, Arizona
A. In several ways, actually. As you'll know from the story, Tori and Roni's full names grew from the Lorna Hill ballet books their mom (and I) loved to read. I chose Cody's name because it sounded strong and confident to me, and I made Erin and Casey's names very different to suit such independent twins. I spend a lot of time choosing when the name is important. When it doesn't matter much, I may settle on the first name that comes to mind! For fun, I sometimes use names of friends and family members for "bit parts," such as characters' relatives. Most of the Russians in Future Perfect are named after my pen pals in Russia and Ukraine.
Q. What else have you written? -- Stephanie, Massachusetts
A. I've written a number of poems for adults and children and some books for younger children. These include several picture books, an easy-reader, and a middle-grade story. Some of the poems have been published, but I haven't yet done anything with the books.